The 37th Zionist Congress is currently convening in Jerusalem, with 525 delegates from all over the world. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the opening of the Congress:
We’ve witnessed a lot of changes since the last Congress, great challenges and great opportunities for Israel and the Jewish people. We are now, despite our desires and our efforts for peace and for tranquility, we are now in the midst of a campaign, an assault, and not the first one, that seeks to murder Israelis wherever they are. And this campaign is incorporating medieval ideology with modern technology. It’s a unique combination.
I am seeing it primarily on the social networks. I’ll talk about it in a minute. And we know for example that the various attackers are using their Facebook pages to indicate what they are, to absorb messages of incitement. I appreciate the fact that Facebook is trying to find the balance between free speech and the safety of the public. I think that warrants special attention in this case.
Now let me try to put in perspective what it is we’re fighting: We’re fighting not only a campaign of physical assaults on the Jewish state - the Jewish people have experienced that throughout the centuries - but as we’ve experienced in our history, the physical assaults on the Jews are always preceded and accompanied by an assault on the truth, campaign of defamation and slander. And what I would like to examine with you today are the ten big lies that are hurled at us. And the only way that you can fight lies, and especially big lies, is to puncture them with the simple truth.
So here’s the first big lie: Israel is trying to change the status quo on the Temple Mount. No, we’re not. We haven’t changed the status quo on the Temple Mount in years. There’s a simple arrangement: Muslims visit the Temple Mount and they pray there. Others, Jews, Christians and other denominations, secular people, they come - secular people pray too by the way - they visit the Temple Mount but they don’t. Sunday to Thursday, 7:00 to 11:00, the non-Muslims visit. Muslims visit the rest of the time. How many Muslims have visited and prayed on the Temple Mount, on average, last year? Anybody know? No, not 300,000, three and a half million. Eighty thousand Christians and other denominations and 12,000 Jews. That hasn’t changed.
Though the Temple Mount is our holiest site - it was built there by king Solomon 3,000 years ago, 1,500 years before the birth of Islam - though we’ve been attached to it for 3 millennia, we in no way deny the sacred sites or the rights or the free access for other denominations, and Israel has not and will not change the status quo. This is one huge lie.
The second is not only that we seek to change the prayer arrangements on the Temple Mount and the non-prayer arrangements on the Temple Mount, which we don’t, is that we seek to destroy the al-Aqsa Mosque. Now this is particularly farcical. It would be farcical if it weren’t tragic. My grandfather came to this land in 1920 and he landed in Jaffa, and very shortly after he landed he went to the immigration office in Jaffa. And a few months later it was burned down by marauders. These attackers, Arab attackers, murdered several Jews, including our celebrated writer Brenner.
And this attack and other attacks on the Jewish community in 1920, 1921, 1929, were instigated by a call of the Mufti of Jerusalem Haj Amin al-Husseini, who was later sought for war crimes in the Nuremberg trials because he had a central role in fomenting the final solution. He flew to Berlin. Hitler didn’t want to exterminate the Jews at the time, he wanted to expel the Jews. And Haj Amin al-Husseini went to Hitler and said, “If you expel them, they’ll all come here.” “So what should I do with them?” he asked. He said, “Burn them.” And he was sought in, during the Nuremberg trials for prosecution. He escaped it and later died of cancer, after the war, died of cancer in Cairo. [Fucking Amazing.] But this is what Haj Amin al-Husseini said. He said, “:The Jews seek to destroy the Temple Mount.” My grandfather in 1920 seeks to destroy…? Sorry, the al-Aqsa Mosque. So this lie is about a hundred years old. It fomented many, many attacks. The Temple Mount stands. The al-Aqsa Mosque stands. But the lie stands too, persists.
First lie: Israel seeks to change the status quo - false. Second lie: Israel seeks to destroy the al-Aqsa Mosque - false. It’s particularly onerous because Israel is the only country that protects the holy sites in the Middle East. You see Muslims, the militant Shi’ites and the militant Sunnis, blowing each other’s mosques to smithereens across Iraq, Syria, you name it, churches - of course, synagogues - don’t even talk about it. And ancient shrines of great world heritage - blown up. The only place where the holy shrines of all are absolutely guaranteed is in Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty and of course in the rest of Israel.
Here’s lie number three - the reason you have this surge of violence is because there has been a surge in settlement construction. Did you hear this? Yeah, all the time. Well, here are the numbers - some of you are not going to like them. In my first term in office, we built an average of 3,000 units annually in Judea and Samaria. In Barak’s single year, he built 5,000. In Sharon, it was down to 1,900. In Olmert, it was down to 1,700. And given the circumstances, in my successive terms it’s down to 1,500.
There are reasons for that. We can discuss that some other time but facts are facts. These numbers are exact. So, far from seeing a settlement surge, there’s actually been a decline in construction. I raise that because this is raised again and again and again. The Palestinians are protesting because of a surge in settlement activity. Sorry, not true. And I put the facts forward before the world. Some surge.
The fourth big lie is that we are executing Palestinians - executing Palestinians. When our people are fighting back against these knife-wielders, meat-cleaver-wielders, people who try hack to death our citizens and our soldiers and our policemen, they’re executing people. And what was the example? Ahmed Mansara, this boy that Abu Mazen put forward. He held his picture and he said we’re executing this innocent boy. He’s not innocent, he nearly stabbed to death, he stabbed nearly to death a 13-year-old Israeli boy riding on a bicycle.
He’s not dead. He’s been released, I think he’s about to be released, from the Hadassah Hospital where his victim is struggling for his life. This is a big lie that we punctured right on the spot. Because here’s the thing about the lies that I’m describing: If left unchallenged, they continue to expand like a cloud and by dint of constant repetition, these lies assume the cache of self-evident truth. And I think it’s vital to put the facts before the world.
The fifth point is that Israel uses excessive force in general. That’s not true either. What do you think would happen on the streets of New York? Let’s just imagine the NYPD and people are rushing in the streets trying to knife down their police or innocent passers-by. What would the police do in New York City or in Paris or in Moscow or anywhere else? You know exactly what they would do. And this is what our police force is doing. To those who question our use of force, I would ask: How would you respond to it? How would your police respond to it? And our instructions are very clear. If there’s a threat to life, either to the police officer or to innocent civilians, take action to neutralize it. Half the terrorists are killed; half the terrorists are apprehended; one terrorist escaped.
The sixth lie is that the reason we have this increase is not only a surge in settlements, it’s the stagnation in the peace process. Well, some of the worst terrorism that Israel has experienced in its history occurred when the peace process was at its peak. We’ve had terrorism when there was a peace process. We’ve had terrorism when there was no peace process. We’ve had terrorism when there was an Israel. We’ve had terrorism when there was no Israel. We’ve had terrorism when there were settlements. We’ve had terrorism when there were no settlements, when we didn’t even control Judea and Samaria.
The real reason we have this terrorism is not because the terrorists are frustrated in the peace process. They’re frustrated because there’s a State of Israel and that frustration will continue.
The seventh myth is that Abbas is a moderate. Abbas does not send his security forces to attack us, this is true. And there is ongoing cooperation; that is true too. So on one hand, Abbas does what I’ve just described, but on the other hand, he is a steady inciter. He incites all the time. He and his Fatah partners and the official websites of the Palestinian Authority incite day in and day out on those social networks. And to put a fine point on it, he said the other day, “I welcome every drop of blood spilled in Jerusalem.” Are these the words of a moderate? He glorifies these killers.
He hasn’t condemned a single one of the 30 terrorist attacks on Israelis over the last month. And I think that people who call public squares in the name of mass murderers should be condemned. I haven’t heard a word of condemnation, practically not a syllable of condemnation for this irresponsible behavior of Abbas. And I think what we should tell Abu Mazen is: Stop lying, stop inciting.
The eighth big lie is that only international observers will restore calm on the Temple Mount. The last thing we have to do is to take the most explosive square kilometer on earth and put there the General Assembly of the United Nations. That is not a force for moderation. Israel enforces the status quo and we should tell the truth, affirm Israel’s proven commitment to the status quo and hold President Abbas, Hamas and the Islamic Movement in Israel accountable for their lies and incitement. That is what is producing this violence.
The ninth lie is that the violence is erupted continually because there’s no Palestinian state. Palestinians have repeatedly refused to accept a nation-state for themselves. They’ve repeatedly refused to accept it if it means accepting a nation-state for the Jewish people alongside it. That was and remains the core of the conflict - the persistent refusal to recognize Israel in any boundaries.
Now I spoke to you about my grandfather. After he came here in 1920, we had the surge of the attacks at that year. In 1921, the Jewish community in Hebron, who had been there for millennia, was massacred - no provocation, no reasons. In 1936 to 1939, massive attacks by Palestinians on the Jewish community here, throughout the coast - in Tel Aviv, Jaffa, elsewhere. There were no settlements there, no territories, no desire even for a Palestinian state. And this continued, of course, into 1947, ‘48, when the Palestinians rejected a partition for a Jewish state and a Palestinian state - no territories then, a state offered to them.
And then it continued in the attacks against us, terrorist attacks by the Fedayeen and others in 1956. And in 1967, those attacks, the desire to destroy Israel continued despite the fact that the West Bank, Judea and Samaria, and Gaza were firmly in Arab hands. So it couldn’t have been the reason for our attacks. Now we’re talking about a century, half a century - from 1920 to 1967, that’s 47 years - where the attacks, the attacks are going against us one after the other. Half a century and it’s clearly not the core of the conflict. The core of the conflict was the desire to destroy the Jews anywhere, without a state, and with a state without the territories and without settlements.
Now, when we came into possession of Judea, Samaria and Gaza, and when we came back to our ancestral homeland into these disputed lands and built some communities, some settlements, we uprooted them according to the book. They changed the narrative. After ‘67 what the Palestinians did is turn the result of their aggression - our presence in those territories - into its cause. And the Israeli government of Ariel Sharon made a decision with which I disagreed.
They uprooted all the Israelis from Gaza, disinterred the graves, gave the territory to Abu Mazen and he promptly handed it over to Hamas under the force of their guns. Well, we didn’t get peace. We got thousands and thousands of rockets hurled into our cities. And when we asked Hamas, “Why are you firing these rockets on our cities? Is it to liberate the West Bank?” And they said, “Yeah, that too, but it’s to liberate Palestine - Haifa, Akko, Jaffa, Jerusalem of course.” That is what they said.
We turned to the others, to Abbas and the Palestinian Authority and I said, “What about you? Are you willing to recognize the Jewish state? You demand a nation-state for the Palestinian people. Assuming we solve the problem of the border, of the settlements and so on, would you then be prepared to recognize a Jewish state, a nation-state for the Jewish people?” They hem and haw and basically say no because they’d have to give up the fantasy of the so-called right of return because they have to end the conflict, because they don’t want a state to end the conflict because they want a state to continue the conflict and eradicate the Jewish state. This is what this conflict has always been about. That’s what it’s about. You can’t deny the facts. You can stick your head in the sand and be an ostrich, but we Jews do not stick our heads in the sand. We see the territory, we see reality as it is and we confront that reality.
And here’s the tenth, final myth - and this is a doozer for some of you. This one shows how persistent and absurd these myths are and this was common parlance for our critics, for commentators, for political leaders, for the greatest news media in the world and this was uttered day in, day out, every hour by the hour, by the international community and even some here and even by our own people. And they said this as though it was self-evident truth and here’s what it said: The core of the conflict in the Middle East - conflict always in the singular - the core of the conflict in the Middle East is the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Remember that one?
Now four years after the Arab Spring and the convulsions that take place, the disintegration of Syria, the disintegration of Iraq, the disintegration of Libya, the wars in Yemen, the chaos in the Sinai and everything else that convulses North Africa and the Middle East from India to the Atlantic, from the borders of India I’m happy to say to the Atlantic, there is great convulsion. What’s that got to do with the Palestinian-Israeli conflict? And the answer is: Nothing. Yet this was repeated over and over and over again. There were two truths - this was one of them. The core of the conflict was the Palestinian-Israeli conflict; and the core of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict were the settlements. Neither one is true.
Now it’s evident. The first one is, you know, there are still true believers - not many - walking about us, but they’re fairly silent about the first one because when millions are displaced, when hundreds of thousands are butchered, when every week in Istanbul now they had… in Ankara they had 100 people die in one day and thousands die every month - thousands - in Iraq, in Saudi Arabia, in the Sinai, in Libya. It’s patently absurd. And yet people believe this. They believe this with religious fervor, I would say. I’m talking about the West. Now they believe the settlement myth even though they see it before their eyes. We left Gaza. We left every settlement - nothing. The conflict continues. We offer a deal and we say, “Okay, assuming we solve the settlement problem, what about the settlement called Tel Aviv? What about Jaffa? Give up the ghost.” Nope.
The core of the conflicts in the Middle East is the battle between early medievalism, very primitive, very violent, the forces of militant Islam, and modernity. The core of the conflict, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, is the persistent refusal to recognize a Jewish state in any boundaries. There is no way to battle lies except to tell the truth. Any attempt to forge peace based on lies will crash against the realities of the Middle East, will crash against the rocks of reality. We look forward and we say we want a real peace, a lasting peace, a peace where our long-standing rights, the right of the Jewish people to live in their ancestral homeland as a free and secure people - those rights are guaranteed.
We have no preconditions for entering negotiations. We have foundations for a solution and we will be very firm and insistent on it. But there is no limitation on our side for entering negotiations. Yet that too is not being met by the other side. It has enjoyed a long pass, it has been given a pass by the international community, the Palestinian Authority. They are not held to their incitement. They’re not held accountable for the violence that they foment all day, all night, every day, every month, on their Palestinian social networks and this has to end. My government has taken very strong steps to bolster our security, adding forces, giving them the means to do their job, punishing people who blow up houses or blow up people, murder innocent people. We do all that.
But I think the larger battle that we fight is the battle for the truth and I urge every one of you to be a soldier in that battle. [Alan Dershowitz. Wolf Blitzer.] We’ve withstood, in the last century, the many assaults on our people. We came back to our homeland. We built our state. We’ve overcome tremendous forces. Israel is a modern, democratic, progressive and powerful state. We’ve withstood the attacks of terror, Palestinian terror, over the decades and we’ll overcome this one too. But I believe that the biggest battle we have to fight is the battle for the facts. The facts win over the fiction if they’re repeated clearly, responsibly, firmly. This is what I ask all of you to do for the sake of the Jewish state and for the sake of the Jewish people.